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What is the Rolex Space-Dweller?

NASA Mercury Rolex Space-Dweller


The Rolex Space-Dweller is, wait, something is not quite right here, Space-Dweller? Yes, you read that right, and the story we have on offer for you today is one of the tastiest in the colourful history of Rolex.

Although the name might suggest it, this is not the equivalent of the Sea-Dweller for astronauts. Instead this a normal Rolex Explorer reference 1016 except that it isn’t.

Rolex Space-Dweller on leather strap


How come you never heard of this watch, and whats up with that confusing name?

It was the 1960s and the space race was capturing the world’s imagination of mankind’s possibilities. NASA’s project Mercury had just done the impossible by circling the planet three times in under five hours.

CTM Project Mercury canonical


Following the mission, the group engaged in a world tour to flaunt the West’s technological success. One nation that went particularly bananas for the men from space was Japan.

The ever-industrious Rolex sought to capitalise on the craze, and simply decided to take their explorer model and rename it in a Japan-only special edition. The production run was extremely limited, and even then didn’t sell particularly well. Rolex abandoned the Space-Dweller, and we would never hear from it again.

Rolex Space-Dweller Dial


So why does the Rolex Space-Dweller matter? After all, it seems to be just an Explorer where Rolex tried and failed to use a popular event to push sales.

Well first of all with a brand which has a track record like Rolex any “failure” is an interesting oddity and tends to achieve a status of high collectibility and matching prices.

More interestingly though it really drives the “what could have been” train of thought. It is not unthinkable that a commercial success of this model could have lead to the adoption of the name, and this blog would be about the rare Explorer instead.

It could also have been the case that Rolex would have developed a whole new range out of the Space-Dweller, something to compete with the Omega Speedmaster. In the end we are only left to dream as a return of the Space-Dweller will probably be just that, a dream.